It’s been a rough go for the Canadian Football League when it comes to its new rules on contacting sliding quarterbacks.
Just three snaps into the 2019 season, Saskatchewan Roughriders pivot Zach Collaros suffered a concussion on the exact type of play the league is trying to rid itself of, suspending Hamilton Tiger-Cats linebacker Simoni Lawrence for two games for an illegal hit to the head on the sliding quarterback.
“I think that’s a lot of what we talked about in the off-season, about protecting the quarterbacks and a non-tolerance policy for it. And the 25-yard penalty and the rough-play ejection was supposed to take care of it,” said Eskimos head coach Jason Maas. “The players are the ones who can decide whether to make those plays happen or not. I know it’s a quick game, I know it’s tough when they get put in some bad situations but, really, they’re the ones that can control that.
“The league’s trying their best to implement a harsh enough penalty where guys will think about it, but it’s something that we need to get out of the game, for sure. And I know it’s never intentional, but you do control your actions and our guys have got to understand that.
“It’s just unfortunate it happened to a guy like Zach, who’s had some issues in the past with concussions and is on the six-game (injured list) again because of it. And that’s just not a good way to start your season off.”
Things got no better the following night in Edmonton, where the opposite extreme took place.
Eskimos linebacker Vontae Diggs was penalized half the distance to the goal in the fourth quarter, when he was called for roughness against a sliding Vernon Adams Jr. The Montreal Alouettes quarterback appeared to have embellished what little contact there may have been on the play, knowing full well officials were hypersensitive following the Lawrence hit.
“I think that’s what you did see,” Maas said. “Vontae Diggs looks very bad, him going over the top, but he doesn’t touch him.
“If a guy lays on the ground looking like he did get hit, then I think the injury spotter up top should take him out if it looked like that hard of a hit. But if he doesn’t get hit, then what are we doing?”
A case could be made for an unsportsmanlike penalty to a player taking a dive.
“Then, to me, you pick up your flag, as well,” Maas said. “I don’t know why you can’t do that. Either way, it’s reffed a certain way and you’ve got to deal with it.
“It’s on all of us, though, in this league and I think the commissioner and the board of directors and presidents made it a big emphasis in the off-season to protect our players and the players have got to protect themselves too. It’s on all of us to teach it better, coach it better and players police themselves too.”
Diggs was ready to roll out the red carpet and read an envelope with Adams Jr.’s name inside, after his roughness penalty led to an Alouettes touchdown on the next snap.
“Aw, man. He’s Denzel. He acted,” said the six-foot-two, 230-pound Connecticut product. “He perfectly timed his slide right at my legs and I put my hands down to protect myself. He did a little dramatic fallout and, you know, I applaud him for that.
“He played his cards right, they needed that. There’s not much you can do about it. I tried to talk the ref out of it and he wasn’t going for it, so we’ve got to go to the next play.”
It’s after the fact, now, but Diggs certainly had a case.
“I put my hands down to protect myself, that’s what they called me for,” said the 23-year-old native of Downers Grove, Il. “I don’t know what they want me to do in that situation, he’s coming at my legs. We need our legs, so I’m going to protect myself every time.
“If they’re going to call me on it every time, then I’m just going to have to deal with my cards.”
READY FOR REILLY
If there is one quarterback Diggs doesn’t have to worry about taking a dive, it’s the perennial iron man of the CFL, B.C. Lions quarterback Mike Reilly, who returns to face his former team for the first time Friday.
“I mean, if I’m going to start a rivalry, I’m going to tell him that’s his prerogative, but I’m not the one to try,” the rookie linebacker said of the former Eskimos quarterback, who ran for over 3,000 yards in his six seasons here. “It’s as simple as that. If he wants to slide, he’s going to slide. But if he wants to continue to run, well then, that makes him a free ball carrier and I’m going to hit him.
“Mike Reilly was here and now he’s not. I don’t want to get too much into it. I don’t know the guy, he doesn’t know me. We’re just going to go out here and ball.”
In and out: Former league-leading receiver Brandyn Zylstra is returning to Edmonton to watch his old club take on his old quarterback Friday … OLB Jovan Santos-Knox remained out, while CB Anthony Orange did not practise Tuesday.
On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019